Aakash Prabhakar’s first feature, Freddie’s Piano has been selected for the New York Indian Film Festival (June 4-13), as one of the 15 eclectic films from all over the country that are in the line-up of the NYIFF Celebrates Unmatched Breadth of Indian Cinema.
The film (co-directed by Sudharshan Narayanan), is set in the picturesque town of Pondicherry (or Puducherry as it is now known) with its Tamil-French blend of culture, shows a different side of the place, from what it is widely known for– the centre of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. So, it captures the unique ethos of the town without deliberately making it look touristy.
Aden Thaniel (played by director Prabhakar) and his 12-year-old half brother Freddie (Pranav Mylarassu) live in a pretty cottage, but have trouble making ends meet after the death of their parents. Aden, is forced to put his own future on hold, and become old before his time, as he tells his best buddy Roshan (Mathivanan Rajendran), to become his kid brother’s guardian. He may, in a rare moment of frustration, complain about the burden on his unprepared young shoulders, but wants nothing more than Freddie’s happiness.
Freddie is a musical prodigy (the actor is a pianist in real life), but lack of funds forces him to give up his piano practice, and buying a piano seems beyond their reach. Freddie, on his part, gives up music, because he knows his brother’s strained financial situation, but it makes him sullen.
Roshan, who is a chef, bulldozes his father into giving Aden a job in his camera repair shop. Rathinam (Rajiv Choudry) hires Aden more out of kindness than need; his business is down, what with people having no use for cameras any more. (Aden is a rare creature who does not own a cell phone).
It is the generosity of the people around that lends the film its warmth; Mrs Koshy (Mekha Rajan), a neighbour looks out for Freddie. The teacher Miss Lisa (Drishya Gautham) cares about the boy. Even the loan shark (Anand Sami) lets go of a bit of money owed to him by the late Thaniel, because the kids have none.
The bond between the brothers is the core of the film (written by Batul Mukhtiar), in which the placidity of the characters’ lives is not disturbed much, but the required emotional churn takes place without a great deal of fuss. With some foreshadowing in a scene of the friends watching, a old film based on O’Henry’s famous story, The Gift Of The Magi, a more dramatic ending is anticipated, however, the director avoids any contrivance, to keep the tone realistic and believable.
The cast of fresh actors–with authentic accents—adds to the film’s charm. The lovely Pondicherry locations are easy on the eye (shot by Sandeep K. Vijay). Freddie’s Piano is a sweet little feel good film.